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John Lewis, M&S and Debenhams yet to commit to new Bangladesh factory safety deal

UK fashion and clothes retailers have defended themselves after it emerged on Monday that they have yet to sign a deal renewing their commitment to factory safety in Bangladesh.

John Lewis, M&S, Next, Debenhams and Sainsbury’s are all yet to add their names to a list of brands binding themselves to Bangladesh’s latest laws on fire and building safety.

The renewed agreement will see greater investment in health and safety checks come into effect this year as the original 2013 agreement is due to expire in May.

A legally binding agreement was set up in 2013 in which brands must shoulder the costs of improving health and safety in Bangladeshi factories.

Bangladesh’s Accord on Fire and Building Safety was introduced after the fatal Rana Plaza factory disaster which left over 2,500 people injured and killed 1,135 workers.

Sixty global brands have already renewed their commitment to the accord, including Adidas, Lidl and Primark, according to IndustriALL Global Union.

A John Lewis spokesperson said the company is currently reviewing details of the new agreement before making a decision ahead of the May deadline.

M&S told the Independent that it is still “in discussion with stakeholders on Accord 2.0”, while Debenhams said it had “meetings in the diary” before May.

A Next spokesperson said it is yet to make a final decision on whether to sign up to the Second Accord because of a “lack of clarity”.

“If NEXT decides not to sign Accord 2 – it is confident that it already has a competent, directly employed Code Of Practice team (and office) in place in Bangladesh, to manage safety in that region”, said Next.

Sainsbury’s was unavailable for comment.

Trade unions representing Bangladeshi textile workers reached a $2.3m (£1.6m) settlement earlier in January with an unnamed multinational fashion brand accused of delaying fixes to life-threatening hazards in factories.

The UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union took two leading fashion brands to court in 2016 following the introduction of Bangladesh’s Accord on Fire and Building Safety in 2013.

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